Thursday, September 18, 2008

First Time Visits With A New Doctor

An annoying, but realistic part of being someone with multiple chronic illnesses from Fibromyalgia to chronic pancreatitis to endometriosis is that you will have many different doctors involved in your care.  Most people have trouble finding one doctor they are happy with, so multiply that by the number of illnesses most of us suffer from, and you can imagine what it must be like for a chronically ill person to find good doctors.  We are all looking for someone who is medically competent of course, but it goes so much beyond that, and what qualifies a doctor as "good" can vary widely from one patient to the next.  In my case, I want someone who not only knows how to treat my illness, but who knows how to treat me as an intelligent part of my own healthcare team.  In order for me to work well with a doctor I need to know that they respect how well I know my own body and what certain symptoms mean for me.  In return I try to listen with an objective ear to the doctor's experience and what their gut reactions might be.  So much of medical care is subjective.  There are tests that can rule certain things in or out, but at the end of the day I want a doctor who listens and really wants to do all he or she can to work with me on the best quality of life I can achieve.

Like everyone else, healthy or chronically ill, I have had my share of both good and bad doctors.  I even have a few that have been exceptional.  But it doesn't matter how long you have been sick, or how many good experiences you have had, it is still nerve wracking to have to start with a new doctor.  This can happen for a variety of reasons; you move, your healthcare plan changes providers on you, your doctor retires, or your relationship with your doctor is shattered due to something out of your control to fix.  Whatever the reason, it puts you back to a place that feels emotionally vulnerable. 

I moved from state to state almost a year ago.  In that time I had a lot of things going on with my health status that needed to be addressed.  Not having the energy, physical or emotional, to tackle them all at once, I started with one problem and worked my way through.  Doing this required meeting with new specialists of many kinds.  Some of the doctors were a great fit right away, some required a little tweaking of the relationship to make things work for both of us, and some weren't right for me, causing me to start back at step one until I found the right doctor in that particular speciality. 

Today I had a first meeting with a new gastroenterologist.  I felt all the old anxiety creep back in.  Would he be knowledgeable about my condition?  Compassionate?  Understanding of how all my other illnesses interrelate?  Would he believe in me and work with me to help me to live my life as fully as I want to?  Would he work well with the other team of doctors I have already assembled?  I had an actual knot in my stomach as I drove to the appointment this afternoon.  It takes so much physical, mental and spiritual energy to go through everything from the beginning and to try to assess in one meeting if this will be a successful relationship.  I certainly have had my share of bad experiences, and they always leave me feeling drained, spent and frustrated.

I had the pleasant experience of having dreaded this appointment today for nothing.  The doctor I met with was on time, professional, compassionate, thorough and wanted not only my input, but that of my other team members as well.  Although I am grateful for the positive experience, I am all too aware of all the times this has not been the outcome.  In a system that requires doctors to see ever more patients in a day, and a host of problems that require time and attention, you are bound to have conflict.  So I guess I feel I dodged a bullet today, but there are still several specialists I need to find, and I can't shake the feeling that, based on prior experience, they won't all go as smoothly as today.  That being said, I am thankful to have one more good doctor and life affirming experience in my saga!


Jeanne said...


Like you, I have multiple chronic illnesses.

I won't bore you with the entire list (and I'd have to look them up anyway because I now officially have more diagnoses than I can possibly remember & I have to keep a computer file documenting my most up-to-date medical situation... such as new diagnoses, changes in prescriptions or Rx strengths, new allergies, etc)!

Based on your profile, I see that we share quite a few illnesses.

It looks like we have these in common: fibromyalgia, endometriosis, arthritis (i.e for me it's a form of arthritis called gout), Reynaud's, IBS, interstitial cystitis, allergies to numerous medications (and also allergies to things like latex, nickel, fragrances, blue dye, formaldehyde, etc.)

My adrenal glands don't work right either. I had a test come up abnormal a few months back. The test indicated it was possible that I had a particular kind of tumor that grows on the adrenal glands. Fortunately, I was re-tested and the 2nd test came out normal!

My doctor said that the extraordinary stress I've been under probably threw off the test --- since the potential tumor was one that sits on the adrenal glands & it would make sense that my adrenaline has been working overtime.

I have many other illnesses in addition to the ones we have in common.

Wow! It must be challenging for you to take care of your mother when you are so sick...

I absolutely understand everything you're saying about finding a doctor who is a good match and who will work well with the other specialists!!

Between my pelvic pain specialist, my regular GYN, my endocrinologist (who follows nodules on my thyroid), my neurologist (yes, I have neuropathy too), my cardiologist, etc... The list just goes on and on.

Thank goodness for my acupuncturist!!

With no disrespect to my other docs (only a few of which are listed above), my acupuncturist helps me more than the rest of them put together!

I'm serious. I don't know how I ever functioned without acupuncture...

You're right that a "good doctor" for one patient might not translate to a "good doctor" for the next.

My first GYN was TERRIBLE and totally mis-managed my endometriosis. Yet, co-workers of mine at the time (who were healthy and had no endometriosis issues) thought he was just the greatest!

He may have been great for them but he was TERRIBLE for me... and once I joined an endo support group I learned of other endo patients who had big issues with him too! So it's not a "one size fits all" type of thing.

You are very right that it's crucial for chronically ill patients with multiple illnesses to have doctors who can put their egos aside and work as a team with the other docs! This is very important!!

Switching doctors is hard in the best of circumstances. It's exhausting, stressful, and nerve-wracking.

I'm very glad you found a good one this time, though!!

Having seen numerous gastroenterologists & a colorectal surgeon over the years, I know how important it is to be taken seriously for IBS symptoms.

My IBS kicked in back in 1992 and it's still a major problem.

Having had 3 colonoscopies, a sigmoidoscopy, and a hemicolectomy (with a foot of my colon removed)... I still have daily IBS symptoms that do not respond to Traditional Western Medicine.

I have to choose my foods carefully. It's not always totally predictable which foods will cause flare-ups of IBS or interstitial cystitis... but I know the "definite no" items.

If I dare try one of them, I pay for it afterwards! I've learned it's not worth it and I have to give up on the offending foods.

I'm really happy for you that you struck the jackpot with the doctor today. That's great! :)


Anonymous said...

Glad you had a good experience with your new doctor. Those good ones are far and few between. Sounds like a keeper to me!